Factory raided over illegal working

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The Independent Online

A team of more than 100 officers raided a clothing manufacturing factory today in an operation to crack down on illegal working.

In an operation led by UK Border Agency (UKBA), 120 officers from Leicestershire Police, Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions and Trading Standards, raided the former Imperial Typewriters building on East Park Road in Leicester where several businesses were suspected of employing illegal workers.

The vast majority of the businesses were textiles manufacturers and many of the suspected illegal workers thought to be of Indian origin, a spokesman for UKBA said.

The raid, codenamed Operation Serbal, is the first major operation as part of a national summer campaign by UKBA to clamp down on abusive employers and illegal working.

The building featured on a Channel 4 Dispatches programme called "Fashion's Dirty Secret" that was broadcast in November, in which an undercover reporter exposed a number of poor working practices.

Information gathered as part of the programme had played a "significant part" in the way UKBA gathered its intelligence for today's raid, which has been planned for three months, the UKBA spokesman said.

Simon Excell, deputy director of UKBA, said that while several of the 21 business units inside the building were suspected of carrying out illegal working practices, some may also have been legitimate and those will not be included in any further action once the operation is complete.

Speaking outside the building, which is an imposing structure on the main road and U-shaped, Mr Excell said the raid started at around 10.25 this morning.

He said: "We've gone in with warrants this morning, secured the premises - there were a lot of individual units within the premises themselves - it's taken us a while to gain access, sometimes we've had to use a method of entry to gain access.

"It's now secure and at the moment our officers are questioning those individuals located inside."

Mr Excell said some 80 people from around a dozen units inside the building were being questioned by officers inside, some making use of the 15 interpreters who had accompanied officers on the raid.

Some of the people working inside attempted to hide when officers went in, while others accepted their presence, Mr Excell said.

He added that officers had "worked through methodically" and were now screening people to find out who was working lawfully and who was not.

He said he was "quite confident", based on intelligence already received, that there would be illegal workers on the site, most of whom were males of "Asian extraction".

Around 50 people stood watching the police activity from the main road outside the building, and around six police vehicles flanked the street.